As many of us enjoy some well-earned rest and relaxation over the summer break, it is the perfect opportunity to reflect on what we have learned over the last six months, and on the incredible response from pupils, parents and staff to the challenges and opportunities offered by our ‘virtual’ educational provision throughout the summer term.
Looking back to March – a memory which is both crystal clear yet strangely distant – it is apparent that resilience and adaptability have been the keys to successfully embracing our new circumstances this term, both on the part of staff and pupils. Inevitably, there has been a lot to learn along the way, but teachers have been positive and enthusiastic, quick to adapt and develop, and have continuously broadened their repertoire of skills and knowledge about the possibilities of online learning. We have all surprised ourselves with our capacity to embrace and embed the unfamiliar at a much faster pace than we could ever have anticipated!
Pupils, too, have shown incredible resilience in getting to grips with managing their time with greater independence, navigating different learning resources and – crucially – supporting one another in their learning. Collaboration and problem-solving, key skills that we nurture in our classrooms, have naturally evolved during our online provision this term and we are determined to ensure that our pupils maintain these capabilities as they return to classroom learning.
The format of our online provision was designed with the intention of maintaining a sense of familiarity and structured routine in the way that our pupils learned. Preserving our timetable format, with periods divided between online lessons and directed tasks, ensured that pupils maintained a good level of face-to-face contact with their teachers and one another, but also provided enhanced flexibility, allowing pupils to structure some of their work around other aspects of their home lives.
For our older pupils, online learning has enabled them to maintain pace with exam syllabi whilst our younger pupils have been able to continue their skills and knowledge development across the full range of curriculum subjects. The implementation of regular video teaching has been tremendously popular. For some pupils, it was the key to ensuring their learning continued in a familiar format: ‘I think I’m doing everything I can in lessons, so I don’t believe there would be a need for change,’ (2nd year) allowing them to further develop key skills through ‘really good use of Zoom [in French] to reflect on old work, upcoming work and something engaging for the lesson. The use of breakout rooms has been very effective in picking up my confidence when speaking.’ (4th year)
For other pupils, video lessons provided the opportunity to try new things and get creative outside the usual classroom parameters:
‘recorded lessons in Maths are really useful’ (3rd year)
‘I really liked the MFL Pock Lockdown challenges because you get to do really creative things’ (1st year)
‘I have enjoyed science because the teacher is encouraging us to do our work outside e.g. we had to measure how fast our pets could run’ (1st year)
One of the vital aspects to ensuring the success of our online provision was the capacity to maintain and develop the quality of the relationships between teachers and pupils – something which we value extremely highly at Pocklington. Here too, video lessons were successful ‘where we have open talk and discussion,’ (Lower Sixth) and allowed for collaborative work to continue: ‘I like it when we get the opportunity to work in pairs and to work on something with a friend, even if it is over video.’ (1st year) Other methods of communication between pupils and teachers, such as Microsoft Teams, helped to ensure that any queries could be swiftly resolved: ‘Teams has worked really well and I like it a lot being able to quickly message your teacher.’ (4th year)
Our focus on individual support and encouragement has been something that we have tried very hard to maintain over the last term. Familiar methods of monitoring learning have continued: ‘In Psychology we still have our mini whiteboard quizzes which allow us to see what knowledge we have learned and what we still need to work on.’ (Lower Sixth) Online delivery has, in many cases, provided the ideal opportunity to provide diagnostic, individualised feedback to pupils as well as allowing teachers to perfect innovative feedback strategies that they will seek to maintain once face to face provision resumes. Our Learning Support provision, for example, has flourished, with staff continuing to offer individual support and guidance. Flipgrid has been used to support pupils’ continued development and reading proficiency, with one parent commenting ‘he has loved reading with you and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate how you have made him feel.’ Pupils too have found strategies this term that they would like to see continue in the future: ‘even when lockdown is over and we are back in school, I would like to keep using Teams to set homework.’ (2nd year)
The opportunities provided by online provision have enabled us to innovate with new learning opportunities too. Our wide-ranging programme of transition materials for both Fifth Year and Upper Sixth pupils allowed those year groups to extend their learning and engagement throughout the summer term, and to continue accessing support and feedback from their teachers as they prepared for the next phase of their education. Finding strategies to maintain pupils’ engagement and motivation over this extraordinary period has been hugely important, and our new transition hub (https://pocklington.fireflycloud.net/transition-pages) will evolve further in years to come to ensure that the same opportunities are offered to future cohorts of Pocklingtonians.
One of the key lessons that we have all taken away from this term, is that learning really does happen ‘without walls’; it is not confined to the classroom, and we are keen for our pupils to develop their learning through encouraging their curiosity about the world around them. Our new package of ‘Curious Questions’ includes a range of staff posing thought-provoking questions to encourage pupils to think creatively and reflectively and gives a fantastic opportunity for our pupils to continue their learning outside the remit of either a physical or a virtual classroom over the summer period: https://pocklington.fireflycloud.net/curious-questions
For all our staff too, the last six months have reminded us that schools really are ‘places of learning’ and that all those of us who work within them are continually learning and evolving. Like all learners, we value constructive feedback, and it has been wonderful to see our parents engaging fully with our provision this term: ‘Can I just say how well the school has adapted to the new way of teaching and having three children at different stages of Pock School (17, 15, 12) I think the lessons are being provided in a well-planned and thought out manner.’
As we look forward to provision for September onwards, there are many aspects of ‘normal’ school life that we are, of course, looking forward to resuming. However, along with the inevitable challenges, the last six months have also brought with them much innovation, many creative solutions and wide-ranging new skills, and we will seek to bring what we have learned over the last six months into the future with us.
Director of Curriculum